An unusual request to recombine four Westside lots sparked considerable debate during the Tuesday, May 6 meeting of the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors.
Jack Lattin, a member of the Architectural Review Committee [ARC], told the Board that lot recombinations, by reducing the total number of lots in the community, effectively increase the costs borne by all other landowners.
The meeting agenda included two recombination requests. First up was the recombination of lots 6152 and 6151, which the board approved with little comment.
Former Director John Hoffmann asked whether the applicant was aware that the recombination is irrevocable. SLWLA rules state that recombinations cannot be undone, apparently relying on a provision of the Westside covenants that reserves the right to subdivide lots only to the developer — and only for lots that have not yet been sold by the developer.
"It was discussed," replied ARC Director Dan Blue.
Four lots into one
The second recombination request involved four lots -- 5529, 5530, 5531, and 5534 -- that together will encompass approximately 2.6 acres. The resulting combined lot will touch three streets: McCracken, Fawnwood, and Winston Drives.
President Bruce Keyser asked whether the owners were aware that the combination is irrevocable.
Blue replied that the permanent nature of the change had not been a part of the conversation with the applicant, but that the rule is clearly stated on the application form for lot recombinations.
"The owner has a responsibility to know the implications of their actions," Blue continued. "Once done, it cannot be undone."
He suggested that the Board might be able to undo a recombination during the life of the current owner; but, once the property changes hands, through inheritance or a sale, "there is no history of it being anything but a single lot, and it can't be subdivided, according to the covenants."
Responding to a question from Director Mandy Goodman, Blue confirmed that the Association charges a $2000 fee for combining lots. The four lot combination will cost $6000. He also noted that the Association would continue to charge dues on each lot until the fee is paid and a new plat showing the combination is received.
One of the owners of the four lots in question, Nancy Hosey, said her motivation in seeking the combination was that she wants "it all as one big back yard." There is currently a home on lot 5529.
Later in the meeting, co-owner Connie Fecik said the motivation in combining the the lots was "quality of life." Noting that she spends "six months of the year in her backyard" and has a swimming pool, she said she enjoys waking up and listening to birdsongs rather than the hum of a neighbor's air conditioner.
Costly for Other Landowners
The most strenuous objection to the proposed recombination — and to lot combinations in general — came from ARC member Jack Lattin, who argued that allowing lot recombinations, because it reduces the number of dues-paying lots, inevitably increases the burden on the remaining landowners.
Lattin spoke twice, once to protest the four-lot combination, and again at the end of the meeting to urge the Board to reconsider allowing lot recombinations — particularly when avoiding paying dues on a second lot is the primary motivation for the request.
"If you say, conservatively, that over the past three years, we have combined thirty lots," Lattin said, "over a ten year period of time, that equates to $300,000 that is no longer available to the community."
Lattin calculated that the four lot combination would cost the Board $40,000 over ten years.
"Ultimately, that means the membership will have to pay that money," he said.
Director Blue responded that Lattin's calculations did not take into account "costs that will not have to be borne by the community," including lake usage and road usage.
President Keyser acknowledged Lattin's concern and said the board would give consideration to his recommendation that the rule be changed.
The Board of Directors of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association, which governs Seven Lakes North and South, recently voted to disallow lot recombinations, based on the notion that it ultimately increases the costs borne by other landowners.